Even though most Maryland couples love and treat their pets like children, the state’s laws recognize animals as personal property. The family court does not typically award joint custody of pets as it does with children, and as a result, animals could suffer from a breakup also.

While it may seem reasonable to share in caring for the pets after a marriage dissolution, a couple must come to an agreement regarding pet custody. If they are unable to do so, then a family court judge will decide for them.

When there are several animal members making up a couple’s pet family, the difficult task of splitting them all up from each other may cause contention. During the high-profile celebrity divorce of singer Miley Cyrus from her husband actor Liam Hemsworth, their 15 animals required particular attention. As reported by The Cut, the couple ultimately decided that Cyrus would keep all of the pets because she was the spouse who first provided them with a home.

The couple needed to consider who would take custody of their miniature zoo that included a pig, cats, dogs and thoroughbred horses. Non-celebrity divorcing spouses, however, might decide to divide the pets based on who cared for each pet the most. A factor to consider is the financial cost of feeding, veterinarian visits and training. Ex-spouses may find themselves footing the bill for high costs of grooming and upkeep on their own after the dissolution of the marriage.

The well-being of pets after a divorce may require specialized consideration. According to a study reported by CBS News, individuals feeling stressed may transfer the stress to their dogs. Researchers detected a synchronization of measurable stress levels between dog owners and their pets.